The first 3 pieces in section 3 can be viewed together, as a triptych, or as separate, individual pieces.
8. No Way Out
Even when the depression had lifted, I was still physically unwell; I felt trapped in ill health, with no way out, no way back to “normal” life- ie my life before my cancer diagnosis.
Several years after my diagnosis and treatment, I discovered the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in Dundee. By then I was working part- time, but still had significant medical issues. In addition, I was processing my experience, having created some of the pieces in Section 1 and in Section 4 in the art room at the Bield at Blackruthven, and had decided I wished to have an art exhibition to tell my story and celebrate having reached the landmark 5 years since diagnosis. (It has taken a further 6 years for me to be ready to share my story through my art and to bring the exhibition to fruition).
The Maggie’s Centre in Dundee is an iconic building, designed by world- famous architect, Frank Gehry. It was the building that drew me in. But the welcome, the support, the listening ear and the encouragement to seriously consider having an art exhibition kept me returning; I joined a young women’s group, had one- to- one psychology input and became involved in art sessions.
This piece is a photograph taken from within the Dundee Maggie’s Centre. There are, of course, no bars on the windows of the centre- the photo is taken through the bars of the banister which leads to the upper level room. The stairs are beautiful wooden ones; I sometimes sat on the lower steps, not feeling able to climb the stairs, just looking across the library space to the world outside the window, a world which seemed closed to me, a world of light and colour and life.
9. Looking Out
As my physical health and mood improved, I still felt as though I watched the world go by while I remained unable to get out and back to the life I knew.
This piece is also a photograph- taken from the upper level room in the Dundee Maggie’s centre. In time, I was able to climb stairs relatively easily, and more able to enjoy the view from the upstairs window- a view across the River Tay, a view I had enjoyed from the wards in Ninewells Hospital when I was a medical student and during my first year working after qualification as a doctor.
However, I still felt separate from and unable to get back into the life of busy- ness and challenge which I had lived prior to my illness.
10. Stepping Out (Into the Shadows)
(Framed photograph; 21 inches wide x 31 inches high)
At last I felt as though, with much hesitation, I was at least able to step out into the shadows of life again.
This piece is a photograph in part of the new building in the hospital in Pakistan where I worked prior to returning to UK due to ill health, having the tests and being diagnosed with bowel cancer. When I left the hospital, the building work was in progress. The building work was completed while I was ill. I took the photograph when I revisited the hospital 2 years after I had left.
I love the photograph because of the light and shade, the shapes delineated on the wall, and simply because I had in fact been able to go back to visit, to say “Goodbye” properly, which I needed to do before I could really begin to take steps out in a new life.
I also love it because it encapsulates what I feel was the next phase of my journey, of stepping out into my life- a life in the shadows, an unknown, very different life after cancer.
Section 3 Pieces 8, 9 & 10
11. Lone Traveller (Going Nowhere)
Although it was good to be “on the move” again, the cancer experience left me feeling extremely isolated and very vulnerable.
I took this photo long before I ever knew I had cancer, on a trip to the river near the hospital in Pakistan. We had gone with friends, and I had enjoyed the light, the shape of the boat and the tranquillity, and had stopped to take the photo while the rest of the group had gone on ahead.
As I consider my cancer journey, I realise this image is very apt for the stage when I was beginning to get out and about; I felt that everyone else had moved on in their lives and I had been left behind, stuck, wanting to move on but not quite sure where to go or how to get there.